CARPETING THE CUT
Progress on the Shrewsbury & Newport since we last visited appears to include covering the canal in carpet! We return to find out what’s going on...
Why’s the Shrewsbury & Newport being covered in carpet? We find out what’s going on
Joining the dots: that was the rather optimistic phrase used by Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust Chairman Bernie Jones in the March 2014 CanalBoat to describe the Trust’s progress towards reopening the long-abandoned route from the Shropshire Union Main Line at Norbury Junction back to the original Shrewsbury terminus. Optimistic, yes, but it’s an indication of how well things are going that we’ve returned after less than two years to find some significant changes.
That said, in some ways it was a very familiar scene at Forton, east of Newport, on a fine weekend in October. Just like in our last article, a Waterway Recovery Group weekend party was hard at work at this interesting location, where the canal passed under a fine Thomas Telford skew bridge, then over an unusual aqueduct which also carries a minor road. It even featured most of the same volunteers. But whereas in early 2014 they’d been clearing scrub to enable the Trust to see what was left of it, this time they appeared to have returned to carpet the canal! What was all that about, then? One finding of the early investigations was that the puddled clay canal lining was very poor. Given the sandy local soil, it would be unlikely to hold water. In the past, that would have meant bringing in more clay – but these
days, modern materials provide less bulky alternatives.
Not all have proved successful: one ‘miracle’ new lightweight material being touted around a couple of years ago has turned out to be anything but watertight! But one that’s building up a proven track record is bentonite matting.
Bentonite is a clay which expands to several times its size on contact with water. A layer of it, enclosed in a fibre matting material, forms a watertight membrane which is also, to a certain extent, self-healing if punctured. And it looks rather like carpet! The volunteers had a system going...
Laying bentonite matting to line the canal Top right: as it looked when work began